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FAMILY AND MARRIAGE: Keeping your options open

November 4, 2017 GMT

“Love is commitment; love is a relationship that never gives up.” – Jerry Falwell

“… as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” – Bible

For those seeking to join the military, there are numerous options open.

All of them require some level of commitment. In general, they range from nine years down. One of the options is called commitment phobia: “You can serve your country without making any full-time commitment and receive many of the same benefits. In the Reserves and National Guard, your obligation is generally one weekend a month, plus two weeks of active duty a year.”

The current trend appears to focus on short-range commitments only. Bruce Wydick, professor of economics at the University of San Francisco and distinguished research affiliate at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame, reports that only one in four (26 percent) millennials are married, nearly one-third (29 percent) are not affiliated with a particular religion, and half (50 percent) consider themselves political independents. He says his students frequently tell him “that they made a certain decision to ‘keep their options open.’”

He also notes that this idea of “keeping the options open” doesn’t work very well for them as students. They don’t do as well in college because they are not sure that what they are studying is what they really want. They take longer to finish college because they keep switching courses. When they finish, they have a hodge-podge of training that doesn’t equip them for much in the work place – except for being the perpetual student (one of my colleagues in graduate school was like that).

One of the main reasons that only one in four millennials is married is because many of them are cohabiting. They are “keeping their options open.” Somehow the idea of being friends with, let alone living with, someone whose commitment to our relationship only lasts until a better option opens up isn’t very appealing to me.

The statistics reveal the fallacy of this thinking. One study says the odds of cohabiting couples staying together after marriage are only 81 percent of that of couples who do not cohabit before marriage. Another study shows that marriage preceded by cohabitation is 46 percent more likely to end in divorce. Whatever the statistics, the fact is that cohabitation does not improve the chances for a successful marriage. Keeping the options open is not a good choice for successful relationships, especially marriage.

The only truly successful marriages are those where the commitment is “’til death do us part.” That is a part of almost all marriage vows but not cohabiting arrangements.

This week we recognize our military veterans on Veterans Day. Consider some of the following phrases from the U.S. Soldier’s Creed:

• I am a warrior and a member of a team.

• I serve the people of the United States, and live the Army Values.

• I will always place the mission first.

• I will never accept defeat.

• I will never quit.

• I will never leave a fallen comrade.

• I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills.

• I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself.

• I am an expert and I am a professional.

• I stand ready to deploy, engage and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

• I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

I thank God for the men and women in our military who are willing to adhere to these tenets. No where in them do we see the option to back out if the going gets too tough or we see something more attractive elsewhere. Imagine a soldier telling his sergeant that he won’t be able to participate in training today; he has made other plans that are more appealing to him.

With very minor modification the soldier’s creed would also make a good marriage vow. God bless those veterans, past and present, of the military and of successful marriages.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. (FAMCO) provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, Executive Director, FAMCO, 640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.